How To Test A MacBook Battery To See If It Needs Replacing And Replace It
Is your MacBook Air battery draining fast or your MacBook Pro battery not lasting as long as it used to? Is the battery in your Mac laptop not charging fully?
In this article we’ll show you how to find out if there is a problem with your MacBook battery and what to do if your battery needs replacing. We’ll start by explaining how to run a battery test on your Mac laptop, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why Apple has recalled MacBooks with faulty batteries, and we will discuss how to get the battery in your MacBook replaced.
How to test a MacBook battery
Most MacBook models should offer you all-day battery, at least when new. That actually translates to about 12-13 hours battery life for the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air models, 10 hours for the 13in MacBook Pro (2018/2019), 10 hours for the 15in MacBook Pro (2018/2019), and 11 hours for the 16in MacBook Pro (2019).
Of course, as your Mac ages you won’t get as much battery life out of it due to natural degradation, but there are a number of things you can do to minimise that, as we discuss in this article about How to save MacBook battery life. For that reason a three year old MacBook Air probably won’t last the 12 hours Apple used to claim, but it should last a reasonable amount of time.
If you just aren’t getting adequate battery life out of your Mac if could be due to a fault or it might mean your battery needs to be replaced or serviced. Luckily it is easy to find out whether there is a problem with your battery.
Your MacBook constantly monitors the health of its battery. To view the current status:
- Hold down the Alt/Option key.
- Click the battery charge icon at the top right of the desktop near the clock.
- After the Condition heading at the top of the menu you’ll see one of four battery status messages: Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now, and Service Battery.
It should be obvious that Normal indicates a healthy battery. Perhaps surprisingly, Replace Soon is a mere warning rather than a demand and your MacBook should still function correctly on battery power, albeit with noticeably shorter battery life than when it was new.
However, the last two statuses – Replace Now and Service Battery – are indications that the battery is nearly at the end of its life.
If you’d like more information you could download a third-party battery monitoring app, like CoconutBattery from Coconut-Flavour or Battery Health from FlipLab. These will monitor and auto-throttle energy-sapping apps running in the background. Coconut Battery measures the maximum charge of a battery versus original capacity when new, and can even compare your battery’s performance to similar models.
Apps like the free CoconutBattery (above) let you dig-down into technical details to get more detailed information. Apple doesn’t explain how it generates the battery life status reading but it’s probably divined by measuring the maximum charge the battery can currently hold against its original capacity when new.
CoconutBattery will display both these figures, measured in milliamp hours (mAh). A MacBook Pro that had an original design capacity of 5,400mAh and now stores only 3,700mAh has lost just over 30% of its capacity, for example. However, the MacBook will still report the battery is charged 100%. It just won’t last as long as it once did, and a Replace Soon status message will almost certainly appear.
What is a good battery cycle count for MacBook?
Another figure worth noting within CoconutBattery is the Cycles Count figure, which is also known as the charge cycles figure. This measures how many times 100% of the battery charge has been used-up. This is important because during each charge cycle the battery loses a small fraction of its ability to hold charge, which is what causes the capacity to drop over time.
It should be noted that a charge cycle doesn’t necessarily mean entirely running out of juice from a full charge. Using 50% of the battery life one day before recharging and using 50% the next day will mean one charge cycle has been notched-up. Thus, you will consume charge cycles even if your MacBook is mostly plugged in, with only the occasional hour or two on battery power.
Storing a MacBook fully charged for a prolonged length of time without use can permanently reduce the overall charging capacity. Storing a MacBook fully discharged can lead to what Apple calls a deep discharge state, which might make it impossible to charge the battery in future. To avoid either situation try to store your MacBook 50% charged, and shutdown before storing it, rather than letting it go into sleep mode.
In a similar vein, it’s not sensible to leave your MacBook plugged in all the time. Make sure you let the battery drain from time to time.
Apple says its MacBook range retain 80% of their charge capacity after 1000 charge cycles, and that’s been the case with most models since 2009. After this Apple considers a battery to be “consumed”, and this is the point at which you may start to notice problems, if not battery status warnings.
If your MacBook is still within warranty (or covered by AppleCare) and you’re experiencing problems while the cycle count is significantly below 1000 then you should book an appointment with an Apple genius because the battery may have a manufacturing defect. Note that the charge indicator seemingly getting stuck at anywhere between 93-99% charge isn’t a fault. This is just how MacBook batteries work.
What is wrong with my MacBook battery
If having checked your battery status as per the steps above you get a message such as Service Battery, or, on older models, Poor Battery Retention, or No Batteries Available. You might be wondering exactly what is wrong with the battery in your MacBook.
Or maybe you didn’t see a message undicating that there is an issue with the MacBook battery. In which case what can you do to rectify the issues you are facing with your MacBook not holding charge or charging slowly.
Battery won’t charge
It might not actually be the battery that is at fault.
We once took a MacBook Air to an Apple Store because it wasn’t charging. It turned out the fault was with the MagSafe charger which wasn’t functioning. Apple replaced the charger and all was well.
If you are finding that your battery won’t charge – perhaps the battery indicator is binking, or not showing orange (charging) or green (charged and running off the mains) – read: How to fix a MacBook that won’t charge.
Underlying issues and recalls
There may be an issue with your battery that has lead to a recall. For example, Apple recalled MacBook Pro models bought between September 2015 and February 2017 (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015) due to an issue where batteries could overheat in those models. If you have heard reports of MacBook batteries exploding and swelling they are likely related to these particular models.
In a press release back in June 2019 the company stated that: “Because customer safety is a top priority, Apple is asking customers to stop using affected 15-inch MacBook Pro units.” To find out whether your laptopo is affected, visit Apple’s website here to find out if you are eligible to have the battery replaced. Enter your computer’s serial number on the program page to see if it is eligible for a battery replacement. If you are eligible the switch will be free of charge.
Fixes for a faulty MacBook battery
If your MacBook doesn’t qualify for that recall and the charger isn’t at fault it’s still possible you could make some changes to improve your battery life.
We actually cover a lot of ways to improve battery life in this article: How to save MacBook battery life. We cover how to find out what apps are draining your battery, how to change your energy saver preferences to restrict battery use, how to use Dark Mode, and various other changes.
Calibrate the battery
It might help to drain the battery completely and then charge it again.
However, it is worth noting that, according to Apple, newer models are pre-calibrated. For that reason this approach may have no effect.
On Apple’s website it used to state: “The battery needs to be recalibrated from time to time to keep the onscreen battery time and percent display accurate and to keep the battery operating at maximum efficiency.” This is no longer the case with newer models.
However, there is something else you can do.
Reset the System Manager Controller (SMC)
If you reset the System Manager Controller (SMC) you can return all the hardware settings to their defaults. This will allow the MacBook to re-evaluate the battery from scratch, removing the chance that the device has an incorrect status.
Here’s how to reset the SMC:
- To reset the SMC, first shut down your MacBook.
- Once it’s off, connect the MagSafe power adapter.
- Now hold down Control, Shift, Option/Alt and the Power button for around four seconds.
- Release all those keys at the same time.
- After resetting the SMC, press the Power button to start up the MacBook and see if the problem has been fixed.
How to replace a MacBook battery
If you have tried the above fixes and your Mac isn’t part of a recall you may be thinking it’s time to replace the battery in your MacBook.
Before purchasing a replacement battery we advise that you reset the System Manager Controller (SMC) as shown above. If that hasn’t helped then you probably need to consider a new battery (or a new Mac – check out our deals on new MacBooks Pros and cut-price MacBook Airs here.
Just want a new battery? The next step is to consider getting an expert to replace your MacBook battery. MacBook batteries are notoriously hard to replace so we would suggest you pay someone to do it for you.
Apple offers a battery replacement service for most recent models of MacBook, and prices are reasonable, but replacement batteries are available from a number of third-parties, such as iSmash or Stormfront, or KRCS. Apple recommends that you go to an authorized service centre – that way you will know they are using the approved parts.
Should I replace my MacBook battery?
If, having run calibration and other tests, there is no improvement, there are in reality two to three options. Pay someone, most likely Apple or an authorised service provider, to replace the battery with prices going up from £110. Alternatively, you could try and fix the battery in your MacBook yourself.
Note that Apple isn’t keen on people updating the hardware in their Macs (or iPhones and iPads for that matter). Apple says that it wants to protect it’s users from “damaged, poor quality, or used batteries which can lead to safety or performance issues”.
Apple also says: “Attempting to replace a built-in battery yourself could damage your equipment, and such damage is not covered by warranty.” Of course we are probably talking about a very old Mac here which would be out of warranty. If your Mac is still in warranty then it’s worth double checking that Apple won’t replace the battery for free.
However, if you fancy saving money by doing it yourself and you are nifty with a screwdriver, then by all means do so. But don’t blame us if it goes wrong, and be sure to buy only a genuine Apple part because faulty batteries can explode or catch fire. Sadly, the most faithful indicator of quality is price and genuine parts are usually the most expensive.
Can I replace the battery in my MacBook
The biggest factor affecting your ability to replace the battery in your MacBook will be whether it’s actually possible.
Whether the battery is user-replaceable depends on when it was manufactured, and you’ll have better luck if your MacBook is more than ten years old. For example, the early Intel MacBooks, such as the white or black range, featured batteries that could be replaced by simply turning a clearly-marked screw on the bottom of the unit (usually a coin can be used for this purpose), or by releasing catches.
Then with the introduction of the unibody MacBook Pro models in 2008/2009, Apple made it more difficult for users to replace the battery. It could still be done but involved removing the bottom panel of the MacBook, then unscrewing the battery fixings and detaching a cable from the motherboard.
For anybody who’s ever delved inside a PC this isn’t difficult but it’s not a task for beginners, and will probably require a specialist pentalobe or twi-wing screwdriver, depending on the model of MacBook. Not for the faint hearted.
The in 2012 things got even harder when Apple began gluing MacBook Pro batteries into place, making it both difficult and dangerous to remove them because of the risk of puncturing or tearing, in which case the battery may explode or release noxious fumes.
If your MacBook was purchased more recently than that the situation is even more bleak. If you are attempting to replace the battery in a MacBook Air, MacBook or newer MacBook Pro the battery will be soldered in place.
How to replace the battery in a MacBook
The popular iFixIt site not only provides free battery replacement guides for most models of MacBook but also sells the necessary tools and parts. For that reason we recommend taking a trip to their website for more detailed advice, but we cover the basics below.
It is worth reiterating that this option is only truly worth considering on older models that are out of warranty. The one-year Apple warranty includes replacement coverage for a defective battery and the company also runs a battery replacement service. You can extend the cover given to defective batteries by taking out AppleCare Protection when you buy your machine.
However, if you still want to go the DIY route, you’ll first need to source the battery from Amazon, eBay or somewhere else – and this will also require you knowing precisely what model you have, so to ensure you buy a compatible battery.
Before you begin you will need to identify your MacBook. You should be able to find the MacBook’s serial number in the About This Mac window.
On the technical front, you’ll need a standard Philips screwdriver, the plastic Spudger tool (£3 on Amazon), the Y1 Tr-wing screwdriver (around £1) and access to web browser to go to iFixit or EveryMac web tutorials. A toolset like this might be helpful, or buy directly from iFixIt (check which tools you need before buying!)
Most unibody MacBooks are fairly similar with up to nineteen screws that need to be removed (some of these will require the Y1 Tri-wing screwdriver). You should take the lower case off the MacBook, then use the flat end of the spudger to remove the battery from the logic board, before replacing the old battery with the new model. Ensure the computer is switched off and MagSafe is disconnected.
You’ll also need a new battery. Second-hand batteries for old 13in MacBook Pros start from £50 on eBay but do watch out for fakes.
Which MacBooks have accessible batteries?
The table below indicates the feasibility of replacing a MacBook’s battery. Note that Unibody models are those famously created from a single piece of aluminium, as opposed to those made from plastic or individual aluminium components. To find out the model of your MacBook, click the Apple menu, then About This Mac. In the window that appears, click the More Information button.
|MacBook (white/black)||User replaceable via coin screw on underside of MacBook|
|MacBook Unibody (A1278)||User replaceable by depressing a catch on underside of unit|
|MacBook Unibody later model (A1342)||Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel of MacBook, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing|
|MacBook Pro Unibody 13in (all)||Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing|
|MacBook Pro 15in non-Unibody Core Duo/Core 2 Duo||User replaceable by releasing catches on underside of unit|
|MacBook Pro Unibody 15in (late 2008/early 2009)||User replaceable by depressing a catch on underside of unit|
|MacBook Pro Unibody 15in||Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing|
|MacBook Pro Non-Unibody 17in||User replaceable by releasing catches on underside of unit|
|MacBook Pro Unibody 17in||Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixing|
|MacBook Pro Retina (13 and 15in)||Not user replaceable|
|MacBook Air (11 and 13in)||Not user replaceable without removing bottom panel, removing battery connector, and unscrewing battery fixings. Note MacBook Air batteries are dangerous to handle because of largely unprotected battery cells that should not be compressed or bent|
|MacBook Air 13in||Not user replaceable|
|MacBook (2017)||Not user replaceable|